Last month the Guardian published an article relating to the Crown Prosecution Service's application of the Hunting Act (2004) in Dorset.
Dorset CPS have yet to prosecute anyone under the Hunting Act 2004, despite the fact that in other parts of the country more than 180 people have been prosecuted successfully for offences under the Act.
The role of the CPS in the justice system is an important one but their lawyers in some areas are making poor decisions as to whether, on the available evidence, there is a realistic prospect of conviction. Time and again, perfectly viable cases do not proceed because the CPS wrongly advise the police that there is insufficient evidence.
In the reported Cattistock case the CPS have discouraged the police from even interviewing the suspected offenders, the purpose of which is to obtain evidence by questioning.
When suspects make no comment, the courts are entitled to draw an adverse inference from their silence, as confirmed by His Honour Judge Pert QC in the judgment on appeal in the case of the Fernie Huntsman and Terrierman at Leicester Crown Court in October 2011:
“The appellants were interviewed under caution by the police. We are told that on legal advice they each answered “No Comment”. We were told no more as to the reasons. Granted the terms of the caution, the fact that the tale each had to tell was a clear one and granted that each was able to give an account of what was going on in each of the DVDs, we were surprised firstly that they were given such advice and, secondly, that they took it.”
Judge Pert QC said their defence was an attempt at ‘cynical subterfuge’.
The advice that the police should not bother arresting and interviewing suspects when it is perceived that they are likely to make no comment in interview is erroneous. It is the courts who should ultimately decide who is guilty, not the lawyers.
To combat this subterfuge we are investing more than a million pounds over the next four years on hiring investigations staff and equipment to gather evidence and get hunts who are breaking the law into court.